Mastering the Night Portrait


As a wedding photographer, it is important to diversify your portfolio to attract ideal clients. One way to do this is to understand how to properly use light during your shoots. Choosing the correct lighting is key to delivering stunning images every time, regardless of the shooting situation you find yourself in. During the wedding day, it can be impossible to always know if the schedule will stay on track, or what type of lighting will be available when it is time for the couple portraits. In addition to knowing how to shoot through harsh light and natural light, it can be helpful to know how to shoot in the evening.

When your shoot takes place outside at night, there are a few challenges that you may face. The sky is dark, and it may be difficult to focus on objects with your camera. To help you overcome any problems that arise during the shoot, we’ve put together a few tips to help you master the night portrait.


Image Compliments of Elmer Escobar

Take Advantage of Ambient Light

As you shoot your couple in an outdoor setting at night, you will need to rely on the existing light in the scene. Take a look around to see what type of lighting is available to you without including any off-camera flashes. You may find that it is not completely dark when your shoot starts, so there is a bit of light coming from the sky. If the sky is dark, but clear, take advantage of any light from the stars. Since the shoot is at night, it is more likely that your couple chose a location that is close to buildings that may supply a light source, or even a location that is close to street lights. Shooting with ambient light, especially at night, can give the image a sense of realism.

Related: We’ve pulled 26 key tips from Roberto Valenzuela’s Picture Perfect Lighting – use them to advance your lighting knowledge!

Change your Shooting Angles

Shooting at night gives you the chance to work with various colors that appear once the street light and surrounding lights turn on. Make sure you use these new colors to your advantage when working with the bride and groom. Once you shoot some of the traditional images with them, position them near different sources of light. Take a few photos up close to your couple which will document their genuine emotions. You can also shoot far away, above the couple, or from a lower angle. The more diverse the images are, the better chance you have at capturing the best lighting. Place your couples by buildings or trees that can also be illuminated at night to add additional dimension to your images.


Image Compliments of Elmer Escobar

Use Different Types of Flash

In every shoot, the lighting can be drastically different. It is important for you to prepare for unflattering light by bringing along additional equipment. Depending on the look you want for the images, you can include several types of flash and off-camera lighting equipment to create a unique look. When using off-camera flashes, you can bounce light off of any of your surroundings, which will take on the color of the surface and create a great atmosphere for the images. Check your surroundings for existing lights that are on but are not powerful enough to produce the light necessary for your couple, and place your off-camera lighting near that location.


Learn Posing From the Pros

Related: Find inspiration to create the best images possible with legendary photographer, Joe Buissink! 

Work with Surrounding Lights

If the reception is outdoors, it is likely that there will be lights to help the guests see during the festivities. This is something you can use to your advantage, since the lights are unique and will set the tone for your images. It may also be helpful to you because the surrounding lights can take the place of any off-camera lights that you brought for the shoot. If there is a dance floor with lighting surrounding it, place your couple in the center and shoot wide. This allows you to focus your camera on the bride and groom, include an intriguing background, and eliminates any harsh light that comes from the site.


Image Compliments of Elmer Escobar

Pose with Backlighting

During the shoot, there may not be enough natural light to illuminate the bride and groom. If there is a location where your couple can pose, such as a Gazebo, place a light behind your couple. This will help light up the location, and help place a gorgeous rim light on the bride and groom. This can create a silhouette of the couple and help to outline them. Using this type of lighting can help you create a beautiful story for your couple. In addition to the backlight, include an off-camera light to shine on the front of the couple, so that their faces are not in shadow.

Related: Learn how to quickly create a Signature Style for your images with Lightroom Presets

When you understand how to shoot in any situation, you will be able to create stunning images your clients will love. After getting your images back from a wedding photo editing company, your clients will receive consistent images that will tell the story of their wedding day. Although shooting at night has its challenges, using these tools can help you quickly capture the best images possible. Since the way that you pose your couples has a great impact on the outcome of your photos, make sure you master the intricate details. Learn more about how to use posing, as well as lighting, when you download our Pro Photographer Lighting and Posing Guide!


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